Now this game certainly will not go down as an exhilarating thriller or an end to end game that saw a flurry of goals. Last night saw a 0-0 draw at the Vicente Calderon in the first leg of the semi-finals of the Champions League. However it was a classic performance from Chelsea. A classic Mourinho game that saw Chelsea defend valiantly.
Both teams got off to a slow start with the rhythm taken out of the game early with petty and tactical fouls. Like most of the game, not much action in front of goal took place in the first half. Atleti’s talisman Diego Costa got familiar with his alleged future captain John Terry as the latter continued to frustrate the bulldozer that is Costa.
Chelsea had brief phases of possession in the first 20 minutes but that was really it. Luiz bundled Raul Garcia into Cech after a testing corner with the Czech collapsing to the floor. “He’s twisted his knee there Clive” proclaimed the ever reliable Andy Townsend. Cech is now out for the season with a dislocated shoulder.
Chelsea’s only real “half chance” of the first half was when Willian danced through midfield evading challenges to slip in Ramires on the right-wing, flashes of his amazing chip two years ago against Barcelona came back to me as he approached the ball and….. his shot/cross went at least 10 yards wide.
Madrid’s game plan was clear, swing in high crosses around Cole and try and utilise both Costa and Garcia’s aerial prowess, no luck. Schwarzer came off his line confidently to gather about half a dozen crosses, the Australian was calm and collected all night, a promising sign for the rest of the season.
The second half followed the same narrative as the first, pressure mostly made by Atletico with Chelsea countering sporadically. The introduction of Arda Turan saw an increase of tempo from the home side but again attacks were closed down and crosses were headed away. Terry hobbled off with a foot injury with Mourinho saying his only involvement in the rest of the season would be if Chelsea progressed to the final. Torres had a mazy run which was followed by a tame shot into Courtios’ midriff. The match fizzled out with Atletico continuing to stick to their game plan of swinging the ball into the box.
All in all it was a good and solid performance, something the team needed after recent away disappointments. Shutting out Atletico Madrid at home is no mean feat.
Although there are negatives with both Mikel and Lampard ruled out of the second leg through suspension as well as the injuries to Cech and Terry with Ivanovic returning from suspension and the possible inclusions of Hazard and Eto’o after injury, optimism should be high.
Special mention goes to John Obi Mikel who for me was man of the match. His performance last night was one of authority and as always, discipline. Countless of times he picked up great positions to intercept or head away.
With the Premier League seemingly out of reach and Mourinho suggesting his focus is solely on the Champions League would you agree with fielding a weakened team which will all but hand Liverpool the title?